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Hospital considers adding mental health services for seniors

Plumas Hospital District is exploring a new program to bring mental health services to the area’s senior population.

The program would provide group sessions as well as individual therapy for those 65 and older.

Details were shared during the district’s board meeting Feb. 6.

Part of Psychiatric Medical Care, Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of adults typically ages 65 and older struggling with symptoms of depression and anxiety that can sometimes be age-related.

JoDee Read, the district’s chief executive officer, said during a follow-up interview, that she was familiar with the group’s work from a hospital in Southern Oregon and had been impressed by what she has seen.

Bobby Powers, a director of business development for Senior Life Solutions, presented details of the program to the directors and said that in addition to providing for the mental health needs of area seniors, the program could result in $100,000 in profits for the hospital.

The hospital district would bill Medicare for the services provided to area seniors.

“The aging process is hard and there aren’t a lot of resources,” Powers said. He cited depression, anxiety and grief as some of what seniors face.

Powers said that group sessions, composed of a maximum of 10 people, would be held three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — while individual sessions would be held Tuesday and Thursday.

“We are turnkey,” Powers said. “We bring the staff and the operations.”

Senior Life Solutions provides a group therapist, program director and office coordinator, while the health care district provides the facilities and is responsible for transportation and meals that are included.

When a director asked where the program would be located on the hospital campus, Read responded, “We have the space,” but was nonspecific.

During the follow-up interview, Read said that it would be housed in the current administration building.

Director Guy McNett asked Powers how the program would interface with the county’s behavioral health department.

“We would partner with them,” Powers said. “It can feel competitive, but it’s not.”

Director John Kimmel asked about the transportation component and Powers said that the hospital could purchase a van to transport patients and as for the driver, the officer manager possibly could perform that function.

Kimmel and Director Mark Satterfield acknowledged the need in the community for such a program.

McNett asked Read for a list of small hospitals using the program for references and Read said that she had already talked to a couple.

“It sounds like a good program,” said Director Valerie Flanigan, who said she was passionate about the service. “We really need solutions.”

The directors are scheduled to vote on implementing the program during their March meeting.

One woman’s story

Following is an example of their taken from the Senior Life Solutions’ website:

An 86-year-old woman came to our program with complicated grief, depression, sleep problems, and eating problems. For the most part, she had confined herself to her bed. 18 years prior to joining our program, she lost her husband from a heart attack, and shortly after the loss of her husband she also lost her son to a heart attack.

She began every session tearful and unable to talk about her husband. She had not allowed herself to enjoy holidays or eat the food her husband had loved.

She worked 65 years as a nurse when she experienced a significant fall with a head injury. She was in our program for 17 months and during that time she worked very hard to build skills and process her loss. She was able to celebrate her husband’s birthday with the group, sharing his favorite chocolate cream pie and telling stories about the life they shared. She enjoyed her first Christmas in 18 years by decorating her house and cooking herself a special meal.

She now volunteers with the hospital auxiliary, attends a weekly arthritis exercise class, and plans to rejoin her ladies quilting group.

— Marcia Tharp, Therapist, Senior Life Solutions

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